U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Military Family Caucus, today applauded the launch of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), a joint initiative through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor which will help unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 cover the cost of education and prepare for high-demand jobs. This program was established through the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which Senator Mikulski supported.
"Our men and women in uniform who have fought for our freedom shouldn't have to fight for a job when they get home," Senator Mikulski said. "After serving our country honorably, all veterans deserve the chance to earn a paycheck and support their families. I was proud to support the establishment of this program that will help our veterans get the educational benefits they have earned so they can find a job or get a better job than they had in the past."
"This important tool will help those who served our country receive the education and training they need to find meaningful employment in a high-demand field," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Veterans are disciplined, hardworking, goal-oriented team members who can play a vital role in helping businesses and the economy grow."
"Our veterans have made this nation stronger through their service, and they deserve our continued support," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "This new program will help unemployed veterans expand their skills and compete for good jobs," she added.
VRAP focuses on retraining 99,000 veterans for high-demand jobs by allowing qualified veterans to receive up to a year of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill -- Active Duty rate, currently $1,473 per month. Veterans can apply on a first-come, first-serve basis for VRAP beginning on May 15, 2012, for programs that begin on or after July 1, 2012. Assistance under this benefit program ends on March 31, 2014.
To qualify Veterans must:
· Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and not dishonorably discharged;
· Start education or training after July 1, 2012, in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by the DOL;
· Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g. Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment);
· Not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program within the last 180 days;
· Not receive VA compensation at the 100% rate due to individual unemployability (IU).
Upon completion, the Labor Department will engage with participants within 30 days after their training to help them find good jobs that utilize their newly learned skills.
Senator Mikulski has been a strong advocate for veterans and military families. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she has fought to put money in the federal checkbook to fund expansions in programs to help veterans find jobs. She led the fight for the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration program to help vets reintegrate into civilian lives and connect with potential employers and was a vocal proponent of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which provides veterans with job training and education while encouraging businesses to hire disabled and unemployed veterans.
For more information on VOW, VRAP, high demand occupations, and how to apply, Veterans may go to the website at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA's Call Centers toll free at 1-800-827-1000, Veterans may also access the VRAP application online at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov through eBenefits, a joint project between the Department of Defense and VA.